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The Big Move: the tale of a large migration to the Jamstack

Fri Oct 15 2021

Currently, I’m in a role managing all web products and digital media systems for a large technical college. I’ve been in the role for about four months and have recently kicked off a large migration from the current monolithic CMS web system to the Jamstack. Previously, the management and maintenance of the monolithic system had been poor and at times non-existent. As I conducted an audit of the system, it became clear that the amount of labor needed to fix all of the issues may make a full rebuild a tangible option. I made my case to the leadership and due to the low cost of implementation we’ve decided to move forward with the project.

As with building any system, the initial decisions are the most crucial and can create to most issues down the road. The first of these decisions was choosing a headless CMS to store and manage our content. After a bit of research and conversations with the staff at Sanity.io, we chose their product as the foundation for this rebuild project. I don’t want to get too technical in these posts, but the flexibility of Sanity’s data store makes it a great fit for a large organization like a higher education institute. This is largely because colleges & universities have a large variety of content, and a lot of it. The first stage of this project requires our content to be completely re-designed and re-structured.

The monolithic system we are using works like most other monolithic CMS solutions where data is defined and stored as a web page. The biggest concern I have with starting this process is the cognitive shift that is going to be required of the content team that manages all of these pages and all of their content. Unlike a lot of enterprise companies, that have a dedicated content marketing team, our content is managed by people within different departments who have many other responsibilities in their roles. This has motivated me to spend a much longer time building the content structure so that it both makes logical sense to content owners, and remains flexible for the organization. As of writing this, I’ve started designing the new content structure and have about half of all the content accounted for. Once the initial structure is designed, I’ll begin reviewing the blueprint with people through out the organization to gather feedback and insights from their teams. I hope to track the duration of this project here, but we’ll see how that goes. Next time I hope to have the content structure completely designed so I can share a bit about the process. But for now, I’ll leave you with something I recently heard from Karen McGrane. Remember that user experience reaches much further than the users that view the webpage and that choosing a CMS is not a technological decision - it’s a user experience decision.